By Afghans for peace: The Complex Case of Malala Yousufzai: Oppression, Opportunism and Subversion
By now, you’ve probably heard about the tragic shooting of Malala Yousufzai, a politically outspoken 14 year-old girl from the Swat Valley in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province in North-West Pakistan. She was shot by the Taliban for her political activities and for resisting an edict denying females education. Indeed, the shooting is deplorable. However, the effectiveness with which this story is being used as a propaganda tool to fulfill the oppressive and imperialist agendas of Pakistan and the US causes greater concern.
In a wave of support for Malala culminating in protests across Pakistan and in headlines all around the world, Malala’s opposition to the Taliban has been glorified, and her status elevated to that of a heroine for women’s rights. Indeed, our two favourite anti-feminists had a thing or two to say (or do) about the tragedy: At a recent concert in Los Angeles, Madonna stripped in front of an audience, revealing much more than just Malala’s name written on her back. Laura Bush, the former first lady also stated in an op-ed in the Washington Post that “Malala inspires us because she had the courage to defy the totalitarian mind-set others would have imposed on her.”
It gets really interesting when one considers, to quote Laura Bush, the “totalitarian mind-set” with which the United States and Pakistan have cooperated to create the very grossly oppressive elements against which Malala directed her political critique, and continue to cooperate to create the very conditions that presently allow such elements to flourish in places like the Swat Valley. In 2010, the US gave more than $7 billion in “aid” to Pakistan, most of which either went to the military ($2.5 billion), “coalition support funds ($1.2 billion), or the notoriously malfeasant USAID agency ($1.5 billion) . In turn, Pakistan, with an infamously corrupt and criminal regime and a repressive state on the verge of a collapse, uses this money to continue to maintain its police state status and rob, brutalize and kill ethnic and religious minorities and extrajudicially kill those opposed to the Pakistani state and militants from ethnic groups seeking to gain their independence from Pakistan. Among the areas most heavily targeted by the violence and oppression of the Pakistani military is none other than Swat, the area in which Malala resides and neighbouring Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).
It’s no wonder that now, in light of this event, Pakistani politicians are seizing the silver platter that the plight of Malala presents. They’ve offerred a $105,000 bounty for the capture of the shooter and publicly condemned the shooting. Sadly, the government seems to have managed to get the public on their side in this particular incident. Protesters across the country joined the chorus to reduce the tragedy to merely an isolated event having been brought on by the Taliban, instead of holding the Taliban, US and their own government equally responsible for the tragedy. The fact that as late as 2001, the Pakistani government, which funded the Taliban in Afghanistan with US dollars and officially recognized the regime seems to have been lost on the part of the protesters in Pakistan and abroad. That the regime in Pakistan has been able to distort these facts in this way and actually leverage a situation that ought to place Malala’s blood on its hands into a political victory is pure subversion.
A key component of the effort to keep the citizens of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and FATA placated is the heavily criticized US drone warfare program, in which the Pakistani government is also complicit. Two American academics, James Cavallaro and Sarah Knuckey, recently published a report entitled Living Under Drones: Death, Injury and Trauma to Civilians from US Drone Practices in Pakistan interviewed North Waziristan residents that had suffered the terror of Drones.
One resident, Faheem Qureshi, described its negative effects on children’s access to education: “It has affected our education adversely, of course… We cannot learn things because we are always in fear of the drones hovering over us, and it really scares the small kids who go to school.” We wonder what Qureshi’s take would be on justifying drone attacks on the basis of fighting terrorism and preventing the Taliban from denying education to women. Indeed, another resident whose name has been anonymized as Ismail Hussain similary stated that “the children are crying and they don’t go to school. They fear that their schools will be targeted by the drones.”
After interviewing residents whose lives had been threatened, lost loved ones, or sustained physical and psychological trauma as a direct result of drone strikes, Cavallaro and Knuckey summarized the operations as follows:
“ We may have not declared war on Pakistan. But for the people living in North West Pakistan under drones, they’re in a war zone….One of the things we found and documented were incidents of double tapping. There will be an initial strike on a target and then very shortly after, a secondary strike. What has happened in the period between the first and second strike is that neighbours or people nearby or family members or in some cases doctors have come to assist those who may have been injured and still survived. And when they’re doing that, a second drone has hit. The people with whom we spoke, in the communities affected, almost without exception told us “when there’s a drone strike, we won’t go near afterwards.” And we even heard this from some medical professionals…It has made people extremely angry at the United States…One of the things we heard from several people is that they didn’t know what America was before drones. And now what they know of America is drones, death
They go on to address its terrifying effects on many facets of daily life, many of which are far more pressing than access to education.
“Because of that fear, people change their daily practices in really important ways. Medical doctors will not go to a drone strike zone within six hours, because they fear being themselves struck in a secondary strike. Journalists and medical doctors, when they go to the market, when they drive their car, they feel this fear. Some parents admitted-and they were embarrassed to admit this, but they admitted that they wouldn’t send their children to school at certain times, because they were worried about strikes. The jurga, which is an extremely important community mechanism for resolving disputes-there was a significant strike on a jurga. Those people said they had the jurga in a public place because they felt safe, they knew they were civilian. But they were hit, and so now people are afraid to meet in public spaces to resolve disputes.”
In this context where US drones and Pakistani Military are having such a devastating effect on the citizens of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and FATA and their access to education, selective focus on only what the Taliban are doing to people is highly inaccurate and a distortion of reality. In fact, using a visual timeline overlaping repeated false claims made by the US of casualty numbers with actual deaths of children and adults, Cavallaro and Knuckey expose the lies of the US government and complicity on the part of the Pakistani government.
Consider, for example, the case of ten year old Nadia, whose mother and father were both killed in a US drone strike on their house. Why do we only hear about Malala Yousefzai’s tragic story and not about Nadia’s in the mainstream media? Why has selective focus been given to Malala’s fight against ONE of her oppressors, the Taliban. What about the other brutal forces that threaten her, and the people of her community on a minute by minute basis? Why aren’t we equally as outraged when children are killed by drone attacks, by governments’ vicious neglect and violence against children, unwilling to provide them with their other rights, like not living in a state of constant violence and uncertainty? And without parents? Why are so many children forced to grow up as refugees without ever having a place to call home? Why aren’t we outraged at the people who create and fund warlords and criminals like the Taliban? Why are we so obsessed in the mainstream about condemning some forms of violence, but not others?
Where is the outrage when drones kill children like Malala, on a daily basis? When children’s lives are interrupted because of state violence? And for Laura Bush, whose husband is responsible for waging a war that continues to kill thousands of children like Malala on a daily basis in Afghanistan, such selective focus is suspicious and an example of disingenuous opportunism. Indeed, Laura Bush patronizingly concludes in her op-ed “Today, for Malala and the many girls like her, we need not and cannot wait. We must improve their world.” So far, ‘improving their world’ has cost hundreds of thousands of innocent civilian lives in Afghanistan and the region Malala calls home.
We thought people were finally starting to understand the real culprits behind the violence women and girls (and men) face in the poor corners of this world…but with the current selective condemning of the attack on Malala without any condemnation of the context which allowed such an attack to take place in the first place, we are sad and worried. Our lack of knowledge about what happens in other countries, and our inability to see our own implications in their suffering actually allows such vicious attacks to continue.
No foreign army has ever successfully occupied Afghanistan, They just don’t like foreign armies in their country. Me personally, Greg, I think that is a rather admirable trait.I personally, if I had been alive, when Hitler was at the Channel ports, and thank God he didn’t, but if he had succeeded at crossing, there would have been lots of collaborators, yes, but I would not have been one of them. I would be the British equivalent of a Taliban. I would be trying to blow up the German soldiers that were occupying my country. No dignified person wants a foreign army, tanks, airplanes, helicopters, soldiers roaming around their country and the Afghans are very dignified people. So you ask who we are fighting, Greg. If it was so simple that we only had to fight people with a membership card of the Taliban in their pocket, this war would have been over long ago. We’re actually fighting the Afghan people as a whole. Every Afghan is a Taliban in the sense that every Afghan is fighting to get rid of the foreign occupation of their country.
We consider Both the US and the Taliban our enemy.
“After the people’s revolt in Ander started, the Taliban, who are mostly Pakistanis, left this district,” Deputy Ghazni Governor Mohammad Ali Ahmadi told Afghanistan Today.
(The rise of new group named Hizb people (or the Ander revolutionaries). After this group emerged the Taliban started killing anyone who where part of them, who supported them. The hizb people had conditions that, schools should not be closed no matter what, Killing of Afghans should not be permitted even if they worked in the army, because most Talibans consider the killing of afghan army men to be permitted which the hizb people disagreed on. These conditions led the Taliban to stand against them and accuse the hizb people of treachery. Now the hizb people are against both the Taliban and the US. )
Outsiders blamed for attacks on schools
Education ministry officials on Wednesday said elements outside the country were behind attacks on schools and staff in several Afghan provinces.
Reports say 40 schools have been closed in Ghazni, Nangarhar and Maidan Wardak provinces over the past 20 days due to threats . Another four schools were torched in Nangarhar.
On Tuesday, unknown gunmen killed six education department officials in southeastern Paktia province. Currently 528 schools remain closed in several provinces.
The ministry’s spokesman, Amanullah Iman, said outsiders were behind the closure of schools and that night letters had been circulated to several schools since the start of the current academic year.
Speaking to Pajhwok Afghan News, he said the Taliban denied circulating the night letters and blamed foreign intelligence workers. He said foreign elements had agents in the country who threatened teachers and students.
In some provinces, the official acknowledged, the Taliban were cooperating with the government and they even checked teachers’ attendance registers.
About the nature of the threats, he said they included closure of girls’ schools, introducing Taliban-era teaching methods and banning English subjects.
Iman said the schools closed in Ghazni and Nangarhar had been reopened with the help of locals and efforts to reopen another six schools in Maidan Wardak were ongoing.
A security official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Pakistani intelligence operatives had held a meeting with Taliban commander Qayyum Zakir, who had been told to attack schools across Afghanistan.
But political analyst, Wadir Safi, rejected the claim as unfounded. Another analyst, Mohammad Hassan Haqyar, accused Westerners of involvement in closing schools
He believed neighbouring countries did not want to see a developed Afghanistan, but Westerners wanted to show the world that security was yet to be restored in the country.
A Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, said they were not against education, arguing a large number of schools were operational in areas controlled by the Taliban fighters.